9 Tips For Visiting Utah And Arizona

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A Few Tips For Visiting Utah And Arizona

We had an amazing 4 weeks travelling through Utah and Arizona. Even though we were pretty meticulous about planning, we discovered a few tips for visiting Utah and Arizona that may help to plan your visit.

Be prepared for high altitude and temperature swings. Plan your accommodations and activities well in advance. Enjoy the hikes and get outfitted properly. But you can enjoy so much even if you don’t hike. Plan for the best. But anticipate and be prepared for troubles too. We planned our tourist site visits away from busy times. But also included some down time. Just a few of the things we wanted to share.

In no particular order ….

1) Be Prepared For The Weather

We visited Utah and Arizona in the fall. When we looked at the weather projection before we packed, we expected wide swings in temperature from day to night. And as we moved from Salt Lake City to our final stay in Tucson. We packed for layering.

But historical weather predictions were not so reliable with global warming messing with Mother Nature. The heat wave for the first two weeks of our visit was not anticipated. So we did laundry more than anticipated. But we also enjoyed the outdoor pools!

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But if we visited in the summer, we would be prepared to go through a lot of sweaty clothes. And if we visited in the winter, layering would not be enough. We would pack our Canadian winter clothes!

Check out the weather before you travel. But be prepared for surprises because historical weather may not be reliable. Just one of our tips for visiting Utah and Arizona.

2) Understand How Altitude Can Affect You

When we planned to visit Machu Picchu, we read all about altitude sickness and how to deal with it. We knew we would be travelling in the National Parks in Utah and expected to pass through higher altitudes. But we did not expect to be at higher altitudes for most of our trip.

We landed in Salt Lake City and the altitude was almost 4000’ above sea level (ASL). I did not realize it until I wondered why I still had headaches and weariness a few days after we arrived. During our travels, we hit over 10,000 feet in altitude and stayed there for most of a day. And the lowest altitude in the spots we stayed was at the end in Tucson (over 2,000 feet).

At home in Toronto, we live on Lake Ontario and the altitude is just over sea level. So the elevation in Utah and Arizona took a little time to get used to.

Headaches eventually settled down with some time and a little help from ibuprofen. We loved when we had a hot tub on the property to ease aches and pains. And we paced ourselves when we were physically active. I even added an altitude app to my smart phone to help when we planned activities.

Make sure you are prepared for higher altitudes. One of the things to think about when you visit Utah and Arizona.

3) Commit To Some Plans Well In Advance of Your Visit

We had a very busy travel year in 2019. We often did just-in-time trip planning. And sometimes this meant we missed things we wanted to do.

On much of our travel in 2019, we continued to build loyalty points and status. So we often planned to stay in Marriott Bonvoy properties. On much of our visit to Utah and Arizona, we often stayed in average properties usually with some kind of small kitchen.

But on our visit to the Utah National Parks, we really wanted to stay inside the parks. We wanted those early morning and sunset experiences. Even though we booked our accommodations 4 weeks before we travelled, we did not get to stay in accommodations inside either Bryce or Zion parks.

We miscalculated how busy Arizona was in October. Even though we traveled off season and mid-week, this did not help in a few cases. So we missed a few of the activities we really wanted to do.

We found only a small number of tour operators during our stay in Page, Arizona and we missed a visit to Antelope Canyon. On our stay in Sedona, we wanted to see the Sedona Valley at sunrise from a hot air balloon. But everything was booked for the full 4 days we were there.

Luckily we were able to book other activities to satisfy our need for adventure. In Moab, Utah we went off-road for an amazing Jeep adventure. We rented a fast speed boat and explored Navajo Canyon in Page. And had the most amazing helicopter tour over the Sedona Valley.

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It was always a risk to book non-refundable accommodations. And weather and changing plans made committing to a date for adventures a bit challenging. But we wished we planned a few things a bit earlier.

4) Buy A National Park Pass

We learned on our first visit to the National Parks that the break even point for a National Park Pass is just over 2 visits. An annual National Park Pass was $80. But most parks charged a one-time fee of between $30 and $40.

We visited Arches National Park on the anniversary day when it was free for everyone. You may be able to schedule your park visits around free days and maybe not have to buy an annual pass.

But we used our National Park Pass for the other 4 Utah National Parks (Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion). Had we stopped there, we saved money. But we also used our pass at Glen Canyon National Park for two visits on our stay in Page, Arizona. We got into the Montezuma Castle National Monument with our pass. And we used our pass and visited the Seguaro National Park in Tucson.

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The National Park Pass was not valid in several of the State Parks we visited. But we happily paid for day entry for amazing treats in Dead Horse State Park ($20) and Goblins State Park ($15) in Utah. And paid the $10 parking fee at Horseshoe Bend in Page, even though this was technically in the Glen Canyon National Park.

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If you plan to visit many National Parks on one visit or several over a year, it makes great financial sense to get an annual National Park Pass. Just one of the smart tips for visiting Utah and Arizona.

5) Time Your Visits To Tourist Spots

We soon learned that every tourist spot was much busier than we expected.

Some days we planned our visits to catch the perfect photography light. Sunrise was the perfect time to catch hot air balloons over the Sedona Valley. Sunset from the Dobbins Lookout in Phoenix and over the cactus at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain were magical times.

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As it approached noon and early afternoon, we often found the tourist spots busy. Tourists on vacation often started their days later. And the tour buses from Vegas needed a few hours of travel time before they arrived. We generally avoided all tourist spots between 11:00am and 3:00pm.

When we timed our visit to tourist spots, we were able to enjoy our visit more. And didn’t watch the crazy people who pushed the limit for selfie photos. This is a tip for visiting sights in Utah and Arizona that we tried not to break.

6) To Hike Or Not To Hike

Hiking means different things to different people. Adventurous and physically fit people are not hiking until it is a long and challenging climb. For us, hiking means we are moving off of walking paths for longer times and pushing ourselves just a little. On our travels to Utah and Arizona, we did a fair amount of our kind of hiking.

Since we knew we would be hiking, we went prepared. We own good hiking boots and they were our travel shoes. Packing for 4 weeks left no room for hiking boots in the suitcase.

We even purchased good hiking poles for this trip. Our poles are lightweight and collapse into 3 parts. This meant they were easy to pack and light to carry. All good reasons why we carried them with us most of the time when we went out.

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I was a bit worried about looking like a frail old person with my hiking poles. But my hiking poles gave me the stability and confidence to actually move faster. And I attempted many walks up rocky paths that before might have challenged me. When I looked around at the National Parks, I was certainly not the only one with walking poles.

Some people told me they would not visit the National Parks because they didn’t hike. While we hiked some on our visits, there were also so many amazing sights visible from observation points in the National Parks. We chose not to hike in some parks. And we still saw some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable!

Whether you “hike” or just walk on paths, there was so much to see when we visited Utah and Arizona. I hope this tip helps you to plan your trip.

7) Plan For the Best But Anticipate Issues

Even the best laid plans can encounter problems. We rented an SUV for our travels in Utah and Arizona. We knew were planned to visit places where the roads might be rough. And we wanted a vehicle that could take the bumps and dips. But even with an SUV, when we really went off-road, we took a jeep tour to climb rocks in Moab, Utah.

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Our SUV survived all of our visits to the national and state parks. But a stone chip driving on the highway resulted in a large crack in the windshield. Luckily we had car insurance through our credit card. And a replacement SUV was quickly arranged after discussions with American Express and Hertz. We lost a day of our vacation as we swapped vehicles. But it was not a costly accident.

Our health insurance covered us on this trip because it was less than 40 days. But when we travel for longer, we never leave home without top-up health insurance. We have luckily never had a major health emergency. But we once filed a claim for $500 to cover the outrageous cost of one inhaler on a cruise ship.

Insurance often feels like gambling. But insurance added a level of comfort and brought ease of resolution when we travelled. Ignore this tip for visiting Utah and Arizona if you are a gambler.

8) Plan For Some Downtime

It is always tempting to schedule every minute of a vacation. Especially if you still work and have few days off. At this point in our life, we can travel for longer periods and travel slower. But on many trips, we still crammed every day full.

But we learned that we needed to plan some downtime into our vacation schedules. Sometimes it was a spa day. Often we planned a pampering stay at the end of our travels. There were days when David went off for a few hours and I could just read and do nothing.

We planned to be very busy on our tour of the Utah National Parks and into northern Arizona. But we then planned to slow down when we headed to Scottsdale and Tucson. We stayed in great pampering resorts. And there were a lot of those to choose from in Arizona! But while we did laze about, we also did day trips to explore Arizona.

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The downtime helped ensure we did not arrive home needing a vacation from our vacation. The one of the tips for travelling we are trying to get better at.

9) You Won’t Need To Photoshop Your Pictures

This last tip for visiting Utah and Arizona is very specific to this trip. Over the 4 week period, we shot so many clear sky pictures. And the blue sky was so much bluer than we imagined. So many of the pictures looked like they had been photoshopped.

But we had amazing weather. When we saw a cloud in the sky, we were quite amused. We were generally out of bigger cities. And the air was cleaner. And the higher altitude seemed to make the sky an amazing shade of blue.

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If the day sky was vivid blue, the night sky was pitch black in many places we visited. Many spots in Utah and Arizona have committed to reducing night light pollution. Many are committed to becoming “Dark Sky Communities”. Star gazing was amazing. And we even caught sight of the Hunter’s Moon rising on several night photography jaunts. But it did make the streets at night dark a maybe a little less safe.

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When we visited Utah and Arizona, we had no trouble taking the most amazing pictures with stunning blue skies.

Things To Think About When Visiting Utah And Arizona

When you read our blog posts about our travels in Utah and Arizona, you will see that we loved this fall trip. There was so much to see and do. We moved from amazing sight to amazing sight.

We learned a few tips about visiting Utah and Arizona that should help as you plan your travels. Many of these may be generic travel planning tips. But many have a unique twist for this part of the U.S.

Do you have other tips for visiting Utah and Arizona? What was the most surprising one we shared?

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About TravelAtWill 575 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

71 Comments

  1. I’ve been to Arizona but not Utah (hopefully someday!). Lots of good practical tips here, especially preparing for changes in weather and booking in advance even in what seems like the off season. And your photos are gorgeous!

  2. The photos of your trip are stunning. And all that beautiful sky. I live in Colorado so have an affinity for blue skies and high altitude living. It’s time to update my travel list! Thanks for this lovely post.

  3. I have not been to Utah or Arizona but I’ve heard so many great things about them. I did not know that you need to prepare a lot of things before your trip and planning for the unpredictable weather. These are all great tips for first timers to Arizona. Your photos are really beautiful, definitely no need to photo shop.

  4. Great post!! I have never been to Arizona yet but it has been in sitting on my list for quite a while now. I love all the great tips here. Plan for the weather stands out for everywhere especially if you travel someplace which is notorious for its weather.

  5. That is an amazing planning guide. From the extreme temperatures to possible issues that you can run into , you have covered it all. Good tip on buying the National Park Pass. I did not realize that you have such high altitudes there. Best to be prepared for AMS . Maybe a day to settle in before you explore would be a good option to counter that

    • Ami, I too was surprised by the altitudes. And the fact we never seemed to get lower for more than a day. Hard when you want to be active. We were glad we planned a few lazy days in Salt Lake City at the beginning. Linda

  6. True! With the climate changes all over the world, the weather has been crazy everywhere. The seasons are delayed or missed or too much! Its just crazy!
    Thanks for the tip about the taking canadian winter clothes in winter – its that cold. huh?
    I’ve been recommending National Park Pass for everyone of my friends moving to Canada & USA! Its such a delight.
    OMG! Hunter’s moon rising is just mindblowing! Just wow!!!

    • Bhushavali, Lately we have found it so hard to pack for trips. Weather is so variable. But maybe just an excuse to overpack! The National Park Pass is such a great idea. It means you don’t think twice about dropping into another one – even for a short day. Linda

  7. Very useful post! I had no idea it could get so busy. Thank you for the tip of planning ahead- I’m rather bad at that, so it is good to know I have to be more prepared if I go. I didn’t realize that there was such an altitude change there. Another good thing to know for a future trip. I really appreciate all the useful tips and tricks! They’ll come in handy in the future.

  8. Such a detailed list! I’ve never been to Utah and Arizona but hopefully in the future. Buying a National Park Pass sounds like a great idea, as well as planing for an unpredicted weather. I also love your photos. They look stunning!

  9. National Parks in Utah is the high altitude are and Salt Lake City is located 4000 above sea level,which causes health issue in some cases, as you have mentioned in your blog. This is something I will keep in mind while traveling to the States with my parents as we intend to visit the national parks there. I am really intrigued at the hot air balloon experience. I will surely add that in my to-do list.

  10. Ah ok, I havent actually done any national parks in the U.S. yet and didn’t know you need to buy a national park pass. Is this the case for all national parks in all states or just in AZ and UT. I take it parks like this have several entrances and you go through a toll booth, am I right? This I do need to research on before venturing out into the parks.

    • Danik, I think the National Park Pass covers National Parks in most states. But I think there are a few that may opt out? But it does not cover state parks. There is a gate at the entrance to show you pass. Linda

  11. Just like you, I always have a plan B whenever we travel. I think it’s very important that we anticipate issues (e.g. transportation, weather, etc.) It is also important that we stay flexible as well.

    Thank you for sharing these tips. It would be awesome to have the opportunity to visit Utah and Arizona again.

    • Clarice, We always like to plan for our trips. But on each one, we get a few surprises that we want to share with others. I hope you get to visit Utah and Arizona again. It was our first visit. But will not be the last! Linda

  12. This area of the US is my next big adventure planned, so this was a ton of great information. I like your suggestion to take down-time when needed. There’s SO many picturesque resorts and pools in Arizona and Utah that I can’t wait to lounge by and get some good pictures from! I had seeing the hot air balloons on my bucket list, so I really enjoyed your tip on going in the early morning to get the best view away from tourists. I wouldn’t have even taken altitude into consideration for the trip, but now I will. I am very sensitive to any kind of change like altitude and get dizzy easily. Glad I read this post, I can’t wait to get planning!

    • Stephanie, I love when I find a blog post that is perfectly timed for when I am planning a trip. So I was happy to read that you are currently planning a visit and this blog post will help you with planning. Linda

  13. So interesting that the weather conditions vary so much between seasons! I have found in recent times that historical weather data is not at all reliable and seeing its the same in Utah and Arizona is good to know. I also rarely think about altitude changes when traveling – actually I never do! So nice that you’ve put this thought in my mind so when I travel I can prepare for what an attitude change will do to me.

  14. It is really a detailed guide about planning before visiting Utah and Arizona. I did not knew that it is busy in shoulder seasons too. Good to know that there can fluctuation of temperatures and we have check it or well prepared for it. Also timing our visit to tourist spots is great idea and as you said tourist start later, it is good to start early and check all the spots which are not very crowded. I too agree this place is very photogenic and every photo without filter would look awesome.

  15. It’s so good to know about Utah and Arizona as I did not have much knowledge from before.US is such a vast country and my bucket list seems to be growing almost every day. We do plan to visit next summer.

  16. I agree with you about preparing for the weather in this region… I see a lot of photos with clear blue skies but I’m guessing the weather could turn quite quickly and could get quite cold, even in the sunshine. I also would definitely pre book a few tours and activities. I made the mistake of not making any plans on a trip to New Zealand a few years and completely missed out on some important activities…

  17. Utah is one of my dream destinations and I would like to visit it sooner than later. These are some great tips for visiting the area. Especially the ones on the altitude app and the national park pass. We travel with a small kid. So these things will go a long way in helping us avoid all hassles.

  18. These tips were so generic but I never think of planning the best time of the day to visit a place to have good shots. These, I should add up when planning my next tour. No wonder why you got some good unfiltered pictures right there…

  19. Utah and Arizona are two of my favorite places to Roadtrip. Great National and State parks like Arches, Moab and Zion. You outlined some great tips for making any SOuth west road trip a breeze.

  20. Your hiking sounds like my kind of hiking too. I think the walking poles are a good idea and I will certainly consider investing in a pair. Preparing myself for the altitude is a little daunting. I didn’t know there was an app for that. Great tip to purchase a National Park Pass if planning to visit several parks. Your photos are stunning.

    • Tania, I really did resist the idea of hiking poles. But was so glad we had them even for easier walks. The altitude caused headaches the first few days. And then just slowed me down a bit. But probably easier to stay at high altitudes than move up and down. Thanks for the feedback on the photos. Linda

  21. You packed so much into your 4 weeks in Utah and Arizona that I find it hard to believe you had any down time! I hadn’t considered that there would be an altitude change in Utah that would take some adjusting to. I would also have thought that 4 weeks advance was enough to plan but good to know to be early! And great tip to stay away from the touristy areas from 11 – 3. That annual park pass sounds like the best deal of your trip. Now if I could arrange 4 weeks off ….

    • Annick, We did indeed travel hard for much of the front part of our trip to Utah and Arizona. So it was good to slow down a bit at the end. Glad the tips were helpful for planning a visit. Linda

  22. Utah & Arizona are two of our favourite travel destinatIons! Our visits have all been shoulder season ( Spring & Fall) . There is such amazing scenery and an abundance of National & State Parks to enjoy. Retiring in 2011 my husband and I have done several extensive US Road trips and found ourselves gravitating to the 4 corners area each time! On our last trip we flew to SLCity, rented an SUV and spent 3 weeks revisiting the Big 5 as well as other areas of Utah and Northern Arizona . We had encouraged friends from Ottawa to join us and felt like old pros introducing them to the area!

    You have provided helpful tips for first time visitors . Our poles are always with us on our hikes. I have an issue with vertigo, my husband has an arthritic knee and the poles are what allow us to continue to stay active as we travel.

    • Wanda, I am sure travelling in Utah by RV was so much fun. Great to be able to move with less planning ahead. Glad you could share it with your friends. I am glad you felt the tips were good for first timers. Some things did surprise us a little! Linda

  23. Great tips for visiting Arizona & Utah. Very helpful during the planning trip. The most important are understand how altitude can affect you. Very often people forget about this rule. National Park Pass is a great solution, too. For sure, it is essential to prepare for changes in weather. And booking lodging and trips in advance, even during the low season is important, too.

  24. I definitely wouldn’t need to photoshop my pictures after a visit here, how beautiful! I’ve never visited Utah, and only passed through Arizona when in the US. The pass sounds like a excellent idea and for a reasonable cost too. Good tip on also booking ahead for some activities; I never knew that October was still busy there.

  25. Great article! We haven’t visited any National Parks in the USA as yet. Your tips are perfect for our planning. The National Parks Pass does seem to be the way to go but to understand that you may visit some of the parks when it is free entry is something to keep in mind. That hot tub looked so inviting.

  26. Oh my God, this photos are absolutely stunning. I have seen other photos from Utah and Arizona but I have never combined them with such a comprehensive read. I don’t even know how to start if I go there. I would definitely hike though because the scenery is surreal but I would also like to relax by a swimming pool and plan my next trips. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • I am glad that the pictures caused you to want to visit Utah and Arizona. We were certainly glad that we did. There are so many great hiking spots. So plan to spend some time when you visit. Linda

  27. Great post!! I have been to Utah before and agree with most of the tips you have to offer and pretty sure that many people who haven’t been to those places will find the tips extremely helpful and useful. Especially the point of taking the weather in notes before planning and embarking on the trip.

  28. I did a similar trip many years ago and would love to return. I learned about emergency while staying in a Utah resort and swear by it for altitude sickness! Great tips to purchase the park pass and use 11-3pm as downtime to avoid crowds

  29. Never been to the states, but found this post so interesting. Really loved the tips, as they were spot on. I particularly liked your recommendation about the National Park Pass, as it seems like an excellent investment, for the nature lover.

  30. I never been to states but arizona and utah is high on my list.You have pointed so many tips here especially buying national park Pass.Is this single pass can be used for all USA state parks or we need to buy it again in other states? I am not hiking persom ,but for amazing photos I will dare to do it.

    • Mayuri, I hope you get to visit Utah and Arizona. A National Park pass covers pretty much all of the National Parks across the country. I think there are a small number that aren’t covered. But it does not cover State Parks. In most of the parks, you can see a lot on the scenic drives. Or with an easy walk. So hiking is not mandatory. Linda

  31. Actually, using hiking poles are really good to keep your balance during hiking/walking. It’s not for elderly people only. It’s for everyone. 🙂 I also heard that fall is the busiest season for Moab. I think because the weather is way cooler than summer season. And it’s really smart to get the National Park pass when you visit more than two parks.

  32. These are some great tips! I am hoping to be able to road trip sometime in the next year and visit many of these parks. I will be sure to check out the National Park Pass. I also appreciate the tips on when to visit the tourist spots in the parks. Those are obviously must see spots, so it is good to know the best times to visit to get the best experience and images. The US is full of so much natural beauty.

  33. There’s loads of really valuable tips here which I would not have considered. I have not visited either Utah or Arizona although both are on my list so this is a really useful read. I would never have considered altitude issues at all & you make so many great observations about how to avoid the crowds. Your moon rising shot is amazing!

    • Sue, I am glad these tips will help you when you plan a visit to Utah or Arizona. Some were new things I had not considered before we left home too. The altitude issue really did not hit home until I was feeling off after jet lag should have been gone. I now know to look at that in advance. Linda

  34. We’ve been thinking of heading to Arizona soon, so these tips will be great to keep in mind. A lot of people don’t realize how much altitude changes can affect them! And those photos are spectacular! There are so many beauties in nature!

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